Michael Jordan: The 10 Greatest Games of His Airness
Michael Jordan just turned 49 years old. Although he retired in 2003, we still remember him a lot. I decided to make list of the greatest NBA games of his career. Some of these games aren’t just Jordan’s greatest games; they are some of the greatest games in NBA history. These games solidified Jordan’s place as the Greatest Player in NBA History.
10) 51 Points at Age 38
Some will disagree with this game being on this list, but I just wanted to include Jordan’s best game with the Washington Wizards. This 50-point game was Jordan’s 31st in the regular season during his career, which is good for second all-time. This game proved that he was still capable of scoring 50 points, despite the fact that he was 38 years old. It was also a game to silence his critics. Prior to this game, Jordan posted a career low (at the time) six points in a loss against the Indiana Pacers. This was the first time Jordan failed to score at least 10 points in an NBA game since he scored eight points back in the 1986 season, when he was playing limited minutes because he was still recovering from an injury. Jordan scored 10 or more points in 866 consecutive regular season games, the NBA record. So after he had his career low in points he then went on to score 51 points at age 38 after being retired from the game for three seasons. This is still the NBA record for the oldest player to score 50 or more points in a single game. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
This game also proved what Jordan would have done had he played in his prime during this era. Jordan scored 51 points on 55.3 percent FG shooting. He would average 50 points shooting over 60 percent from the field in this era. Need more proof? After his 51-point performance, he scored 45 points in the next game on 50 percent FG shooting.
9) “A Spectacular Move” – 1991 NBA Finals Game 2
Here we have a Finals game. Jordan elevated his game in the playoffs—more specifically, the Finals—more than any other player in NBA history. So this is one of the many great playoff games Jordan had during his career.
The most famous highlight of this game was Jordan’s switch-hand move in the air which was announced by Marv Albert’s “Oh, a spectacular move by Michael Jordan!” quote. But that amazing move wasn’t the only reason why this game is so great. This was Game 2 of the 1991 Finals and the Bulls had lost Game 1, so this game was crucial for them, otherwise they would have gone 0-2 heading to Los Angeles. Jordan’s performance was also great, one of his greatest performances ever. His scored 33 points and recorded 7 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. That was a great all-around game by Jordan. He also had an amazing shooting performance. He shot 83.3 percent from the field. He took 18 shots and made 15 of them! This was the game in which he made 13 consecutive field goals! That is an NBA record and this is not even his best Finals game!
8) “The Shrug”: 35 First-Half Points – 1992 NBA Finals Game 1
We have here another great Finals performance. This game was important because it proved that Jordan had no real weaknesses. We all know Jordan wasn’t a great three-point shooter. First of all, he didn’t really care about shooting from three-point range. But when the Bulls wanted him to shoot threes (and make them), he would do it. This is yet another game in which Jordan posted an NBA record. In fact, Jordan posted not one NBA record, but TWO. He scored 35 points … in the first half! And he made six three-pointers during that stretch. His six three-pointer record would later be broken by Ray Allen, but his 35 first-half points is still the NBA Finals record.
Jordan finished the night with 39 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists and 2 steals while shooting 59.3 percent from the field in just 34 minutes of playing time! Amazing
7) “The Double-Nickel” Against the Knicks
Jordan always saved his best for the New York Knicks. He has had great performances against this team but this is by far the best one. We saw earlier that Jordan had a great game despite that fact that was old and rusty. Well, that was not the first time he had done that. This game was Jordan’s fifth game after being away from the game for 21 months. It was also a game on the road. The Knicks were the second seed in the East, so this was a good and tough matchup. He scored 55 points on an amazing shooting night. He went 21/37 from the field (56.8 percent). Who scores 55 points on 56.8 percent shooting in a fifth game on the road against a good team after being away for so long? Only Jordan can do that.
6) “The Shot”: 1989 Eastern Conference First Round Game 5
We all know this game from the famous buzzer-beater Jordan had over to Craig Ehlo to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers in the First Round. It was a road game and Jordan had a great all-around performance. He scored 44 points (53.1 FG percent) and added nine rebounds and six assists.
5) “The Showdown”: 1993 NBA Finals Game 4
This is one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history. Jordan scored 55 points (56.8 FG percent), which tied the second most points scored in the NBA Finals. Jordan did what he did best: attack the basket. The Suns just couldn’t stop him. Jordan helped the Bulls win this game and put the Suns in a 3-1 hole. He would add eight rebounds and four assists to this amazing scoring performance.
4) 69 Points
Here we have Jordan’s career high in points. It was a road game against a tough and talented Cleveland Cavaliers team. It was an overtime game, and some will use that to diminish this achievement, but scoring 69 points in a close game is much harder than scoring 69 points when your team is winning by double-digits. Jordan finished the night with 69 points (62.2 FG percent), 18 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 1 block! It’s certainly one of the greatest all-around performances in NBA history.
3) “The Flu Game” – 1997 NBA Finals Game 5
This performance is arguably Jordan’s greatest performance ever. A Game 5 is crucial in best of seven Finals series when the series is tied at two games apiece since the winner of that game would be one win away from the Championship. The Game 5 winner in the Finals ends up winning the series most of time. The momentum was on the side of the Jazz. And it didn’t make things easier for the Bulls playing on the road, especially when the Delta Center had a hostile crowd. But this was not the biggest problem the Bulls had. Jordan was diagnosed with a stomach virus. Just by watching the game, one could see how sick and fatigued Jordan was feeling that night. But this flu wasn’t going to stop Jordan. He knew the importance of this game, so he would play against all odds.
The Jazz took an early 16-point lead. At first, it would seem the Bulls would never recover from that deficit, but they did, thanks to Jordan. He scored 17 points in the second quarter to cut the lead to four. Then with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, the game was tied. Jordan hit a three-point shot to give his team the lead. The Bulls would win the game, heading back to Chicago with a 3-2 series lead, thanks to Jordan’s heroic. Jordan finished the night with 38 points on 48.1 percent shooting to go along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 44 minutes played, including 15 points in the fourth quarter and the game winner. This is clutch. This is Greatness.
2) 63 Points – 1986 Eastern Conference First Round Game 2
This could easily be the greatest game in Jordan’s career. Jordan scored 63 points in a double overtime playoff game against the Boston Celtics. This is still the NBA record for most points scored in a playoff game, but what makes this game so great is more than that.
Let’s start with the competition. Now one thing about Jordan is that he saved his best for the best. The 1985-86 Boston Celtics team is arguably the greatest team in NBA history. This team had a 67-15 record, including a 40-1 record at home. It featured five Hall of Fame players (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton). The team was third in Offensive Rating and first in Defensive Rating.
Scoring 63 points against a team like that is no easy task, especially when one of those players (Johnson) made the All-Defensive Team multiple times. This was even more difficult because it was just Jordan’s second season. Not only that, but he missed 64 games, and he still had one of the greatest games in NBA history. He also added five rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. What makes this scoring performance even more impressive is the fact that Jordan didn’t even have a single three-point shot.
1) “The Last Shot” – 1998 NBA Finals Game 6
Now here we have Jordan’s greatest performance. It was a Finals game and in my opinion it’s the best Finals performance in NBA history despite the fact that Jordan had one rebound and one assist and shot 42.9 percent from the field. But the game meant a lot and his performance was so great that those numbers didn’t really matter.
There was a lot at stake in this game. With a Bulls victory, they would have solidified their place as the best dynasty in NBA history while securing their sixth title (second “three-peat) in the last eight seasons. Jordan would have solidified his place as the greatest player in NBA history. He would’ve won a sixth Finals MVP, a sixth NBA Championship and a second three-peat in the last eight years. This victory would’ve also meant the Bulls went 6-0 in the Finals. Jordan would’ve finished his “comeback” by leading his team to another “three-peat.” Now, with a Jazz victory, all this would be destroyed since Jazz had a big chance to win Game 7. The Bulls would’ve lost in the Finals for the first time. Jordan would’ve failed to lead his team to another “three-peat”, meaning his comeback wouldn’t have been as great. And the Jazz would’ve been considered the team that “finally beat the Bulls”. So this game meant a lot.
Now let’s see what Jordan and the Bulls had to deal with. The Bulls entered the game with a 3-2 series lead over the Utah Jazz, but Game 6 was in Utah, not in Chicago. A seventh game would’ve been played in Utah as well. The odds favored Utah to win this game and send the series to a seventh game. The Delta Center was known for its hostile crowd. The momentum was on the side of the Jazz and few teams have won a Finals Game 7 on the road. So the pressure was on the Bulls. Not only that, but this was the Bulls’ 103rd game of the season. Jordan was 35 years old and this was going to be his 331st consecutive game played (He hadn’t missed a single game since his return from baseball back in March 1995).
Prior to this game, he was averaging 41.2 minutes in the series. In the playoffs, he was averaging 41.5 minutes. To make things worse, Pippen was dealing with some injuries of his own. He played only 26 minutes in this game because he had a back injury. As you can see, virtually everything was against the Bulls (Does the “Flu Game” sound familiar?). That’s why this game was so memorable. Add to the fact that it was Jordan’s last game in a Bulls uniform and it was supposed to be his last game in the NBA.
The game was very competitive. It was so competitive that with less than one minute left in the fourth quarter the game was tied. But John Stockton hit a shot from the three-point line to break the tie and gave the Jazz a three-point lead with just 41.9 seconds remaining. At first, it would seem that the Jazz won the game, but with Jordan on the floor anything is possible. Jordan attacked the basket on the next play and scored within 4 seconds to cut the lead to one. The Bulls had to play great defense and hope for a Jazz turnover or a missed shot. The turnover came when Jordan himself took the ball away from Malone’s hands. He scored with just 5.2 seconds left to give the Bulls a one point lead. The Jazz missed their last shot and the Bulls won the game and the championship. Jordan finished the night with 45 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. When the Bulls were trailing by three with less than a minute to go, Jordan made THREE crucial plays to lead his team to victory. This is what I call being “clutch,” not just some game-winner in an insignificant regular season game.
Bob Costas couldn’t have described Jordan’s performance any better:
“Statistically, especially in terms of shooting percentage, Michael Jordan has had better games. But when you consider at age 35, the game he’s played this year, the grinding minutes he’s played, and Scottie Pippen being all incapacitated tonight, and the fact that they’re on the road, and the fact that the odds were shift in Utah’s favor for a Game 7. Yes, MJ rose again.”